Legion posts 1-2 mark at state tourney

Brad Hoggatt slides into third as Jake Liles waits for the throw during Hillsboro?s first game at the Kansas Babe Ruth 16- to 18-year-old state baseball tournament at Clint Lightner Field Saturday in Garden City. Hillsboro won a 4-2 victory in seven innings. Picture by Brad Nading / Garden City Telegram

Hillboro Legion Post 366 won its first game at the state tournament in Garden City this weekend, 4-2 over the host team Saturday morning. Post 366 did not win a second game and was eliminated by Cimarron River on Sunday.

Even so, coach Tim Hein said the team closed out the year playing its best baseball of the season.

?I really believe that if we had got the strike call at the end of the second game, we would have won the state championship,? he said.

The call he referred to came with Hillsboro in the field, up 2-0 in the seventh inning of the second game.

?We had a couple of errors (earlier that inning), and they scored a run. But we battled and got two outs with their 9-hole hitter coming up,? Hein said.

?It went to a 1-2 count, and where Travis (Riesen) caught the next pitch, I thought we had won the game,? he said. ?But the ump let him take it, called it a ball. I don?t know how an ump lets a kid take that pitch with two outs in the seventh, but that?s baseball.?

A moment later, the Galena-Riverton batter chopped a grounder toward right field, which second baseman Calvin Jeffrey wrangled with a deft dive.

But the batter sped down the line and Jeffrey?s throw was in the dirt, leading to a safe call at first and a tie game. After two more scoreless innings, Hills?boro scored twice in the top of the 10th, but Galena-Riverton produced a 3-run rally of its own to seize a 5-4 win.

Hein said that after the two extra-inning games, he finally made it to bed at around 4 a.m.?but not without getting his team?s next game rescheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

?We actually ended up playing at closer to 2:30, so it wasn?t even as much rest as we were hoping for,? Hein said. ?We were all really, really tired, and some of our guys didn?t really want to be there.?

Post 366 trailed 3-0 after the first inning, but one play turned the third game around: a 5-4-3 triple play that earned a share of the ?Wow! Award? for each of the players involved.

Brian Fruechting fielded a grounder to third base cleanly and tagged the runner, then fired to Jeffrey, who notched the force out and relayed crisply to first.

?After that, the guys were like ?Maybe we can play today? and we battled back, got it tied up at 3-3,? Hein said.

Hillsboro?s rally cut the deficit to 5-4 with one out in the top of the seventh. A perfectly executed bunt combined with a throwing error had pinch hitter Jake Liles standing at third with one out in the seventh.

Liles scored on a single by Jacob Edwards, who advanced to second on a single by Jeffrey and reached third on a fielder?s choice groundout by Cole Starky. That brought Daniel Jost to the plate with two outs.

Jost struck out.

?We played really well?we couldn?t have asked our guys for any more after they played 19 innings on Saturday,? Hein said.

Regular season standout Brian Palermo missed the tournament due to a conflict with the Shrine Bowl. Palermo was only the second Shrine Bowl selection in the history of Chase County.

Travis Riesen?s performance stood out among the Post 366 position players. He caught all 19 innings Saturday, and all seven on Sunday. Riesen also swatted a massive home run?a monster in excess of 400 feet in Hein?s estimation.

?He struggled all through the first game, but once he hit that home run (for a 1-0 lead in the second game Saturday), he started hitting everything hard. He hit another shot (Sunday) that one-hopped the fence in left-center.?

Starky was Hillsboro?s most valuable pitcher in the tournamment, taking the ball in relief of workhorses Fruechting and Ediger and throwing 7-plus innings on Saturday.

?I think that with the guys we had, we had one of the four best teams in that tournament,? Hein said. ?All four of those teams were pretty evenly matched, so if that one strike call goes differently, we have a real shot to win it all.?

Without Riesen, Jost, Jeffrey, Palermo, Starky and Liles?all of whom will be too old to play?next year?s squad will have a different character. But with the possibility of a pitching quartet of Fruechting, Ediger, Isaac Leihy and Edwards leading a younger team onto the field, a title may yet be on the horizon.

The championship game was won by Galena/Riverton, 10-3 over Wellington Monday night. Wellington brought the highest card to the tournament, playing left-handed fireballing ace Tyler Ybarra in three games.

Ybarra, who commands a 94 mph fastball, was selected by Toronto in the 43rd round of this year?s Major League draft.

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